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Indo-Iranian peoples, also known as Indo-Iranic peoples by scholars, and sometimes as Arya or Aryans from their self-designation, were an ethno-linguistic group who brought the Indo-Iranian languages, a major branch of the Indo-European language family, to major parts of Eurasia.


  • Apart from the time-space expectations, there is not much in the archaeological material that could be taken as tags for tracing the Indo- Iranians/ Indo-Aryans [...] no one of these archaeological correlates is beyond question [...] Briefly, not only have they nothing strictly Indo-European or Indo- Iranian or Indo-Aryan in them, but if we look closely at them in their general cultural context, they appear to be selected isolated traits not always compatible with each other [...and] are attested in various cultural contexts, not all necessarily Indo-European... [the whole process is based on] the simple linguistic space-time argument for locating the speakers, in which case a study of the archaeological record is useless since anything goes [...] there is no factual evidence apart from the linguistically reconstructed time-space predictions [...] There is no point in trying to illustrate ethno-linguistic theories by irrelevant or uninterpretable archaeological material.... [the material culture cited] proves nothing about the language of their owners. Otherwise we would have to admit that the Bronze Age Chinese were Indo-European.
    • Henri-Paul Francfort The Archaeology of Proto-historic Central Asia and the Problems of Identifying Indo-European and Uralic-speaking Populations. Francfort, H.P. pp. 151-163 in ―Early Contacts between Uralic and Indo-European: Linguistic and Archaeological Consideration, ed. Carpelan, Parpola, Koskikallio Suomalais- Ugrilainen Seura, Helsinki, 2001.. Quoted in Talageri, S. G. (2010). The Rigveda and the Avesta. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • “in the denomination of Ariana, which became known to the Greeks after the Macedonian conquest of the eastern territories of the old Persian empire, there was obviously reflected a tradition that located the Aryan region in the central-southern part of eastern Iran, roughly from the HindUkuS southwards, and that considered some of the Medes and the Persians in the west and some of the Bactrians and Sogdians in the north as further extensions of those people who were henceforth known by the name of Ariani. And this, to tell the truth, fits nicely into the picture we have been trying to piece so far. Here too, as in the passages of the Avesta we have studied from the Mihr YaSt and the ZamyAd YaSt, the geographical horizon is central-eastern and southeastern; the northern lands are also completely peripheral, and Chorasmia, which is present only in the very peculiar position of which we have spoken in the Mihr YaSt, is not included.” ...
  • “we may consider that the northernmost regions where Zoroaster carried out his work were Bactria and Areia”. ...
  • [the airyo-Sayana refers to] “the vast region that stretches southward from the HindUkuS,” ... “from the southern slopes of the great mountain chains towards the valleys of the rivers that flow south, like the Hilmand…” “there is a substantial uniformity in the geographical horizon between Yt.XIX and Yt.X ... and the same can be said for Vd.I … these Avestan texts which contain in different forms, and for different purposes, items of information that are useful for historical geography give a fairly uniform picture: eastern Iran, with a certain prevalence of the countries reaching upto the southern slopes of the HindUkuS.” ...
  • [Likewise, in later Greek tradition, ArianE] “is the Greek name which doubtless reflects an older Iranian tradition that designated with an equivalent form the regions of eastern Iran lying mostly south, and not north, of the HindUkuS. It is clear how important this information is in our research as a whole.” ...
  • The Hilmand region and the HAmUn-i Hilmand are beyond all doubt the most minutely described countries in Avestan geography. ...
  • [This region is subject to] “a process of spiritualization of Avestan geography … in the famous celebration of the Hilmand in the ZamyAd YaSt…”, and “this pre-eminent position of SIstAn in Iranian religious history and especially in the Zoroastrian tradition is a very archaic one that most likely marks the first stages of the new religion … the sacredness of the HAmUn-i Hilmand goes back to pre-Zoroastrian times…” ...
  • “the importance of cattle in various aspects of the Gathic doctrine can be taken as certain. This importance can be explained as a reflection in religious practice and myth of a socioeconomic set-up in which cattle-raising was a basic factor.” ...
  • “With VarAna and RaNhA, as of course with Hapta-HAndu, which comes between them in the Vd.I list, we find ourselves straightaway in Indian territory or, at any rate, in territory that, from the very earliest times, was certainly deeply permeated by Indo-Aryans or Proto-Indoaryans.” ...
  • [In the Avestan descriptions of VarAna (in the VendidAd), Gnoli sees] “a country, where the ‘Airyas’ (Iranians) were not rulers and where there was probably a hegemony of Indo-Aryan or proto-Indoaryan peoples.”
    • G. Gnoli. Zoroaster’s Time and Homeland: A Study on the Origins of Mazdeism and Related Problems by Gherardo Gnoli, Instituto Universitario Orientale, Seminario di Studi Asiatici, (Series Minor VII), Naples, 1980. Quoted in Talageri, S. (2000). The Rigveda: A historical analysis. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • The main obstacle to a reconstruction that closely links the western Aryas to the Avestan Airyas is, in my opinion, the one arising from the theories that the Medes and the Persians emigrated from the North rather than from the East, that is to say, for instance, from south-east Russia.... Now, the obstacle that arises from the theory of the Medes and the Persians having emigrated from the North ... on the basis of a highly conjectural interpretation of the archaeological evidence, is now removed by the archaeologists themselves. A body of evidence... orients us in quite a different direction, namely towards that of a migratory movement, probably a slow, progressive one, from East to West, along the great Khorasan Road..... A much more convicing theory than that of the western Iranians having emigrated from North to South across the Caucasus is that of a slow, progressive East-West emigration, a gradual penetration as it were, over the centuries, from the end of the 2nd millenium to the first half of the 1st millenium B.C. ... Having done away with the obstacle provided by the theory of the trans-Caucasian migration..., we can see both these peoples as western branches of those same Airyas that in the Younger Avesta are described as being settled in such a large part of the eastern Iranian world....
    • Gherardo Gnoli (1989). The Idea of Iran: An essay on its origin. Roma: Istituto italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente.
  • “that the Avesta and RV viii. are younger than RV ii-vii.; or else that the poets of viii. were geographically nearer to the Avestan people, and so took from them certain words, which may or may not have been old with their Iranian users, but were not received into the body of Vedic literature until a time posterior to the composition of ii-vii”
    • Edward Washburn Hopkins 1896. Pragathikani. pp. 23-92 in the ‘Journal of the American Oriental Society’, Vol. 17
  • We find no evidence of the future ‘Iranians’ previous to the ninth century BC. The first allusion to the Parsua or Persians, then localized in the mountains of Kurdistan, and to the Madai or medes, already established on the plain, occurs in 837 BC in connection with the expedition of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III. About a hundred years afterwards, the Medes invaded the plateau which we call Persia (or Iran) driving back or assimilating populations of whom there is no written record.
    • (LAROUSSE 1959:321). LAROUSSE 1959: The Larousse Encyclopaedia of Mythology, tr. by Richard aldington and Delano Ames from Larousse Mytholgie Generale, ed. Felix Guirand. Auge, Gillon, Hollia-Larousse, Moreau et Cie, the Librairie Larousse, Batchwork Press Ltd., 1959.
  • [The interpretations of the archaeological material are sought to be made by] drawing parallels between the archaeological record and the Rigvedic and Avestan texts. The parallels drawn are, at best, of a most general nature and do not convince, that is, Andronovo houses were large (80-300 square meters), capable of accommodating extended families. A ̳reading‘ of the Indo-Iranian texts, the Avesta and Rigveda, attests to the existence of extended families, thus, the Andronovo were Indo- Iranian.... the ethnohistorical parallels and the textual citations are of such general nature that they do not convince. Thus, in the Rigveda there is an injunction against the use of the wheel in the production of pottery. As Andronovo pottery is handmade, this is taken as evidence of their Indo- Iranian identity. Ethnic and linguistic correlates are generally not based on vigorous methodology; they are merely asserted... [the ethnic indicators cited], horse-breeding, horse rituals, shared ceramic types, avoidance of pig, sherd burial patterns, and architectural templates, can be used to identify the Arab, the Turk and the Iranian; three completely distinct types" ..."Passages from the Avesta and the Rigveda are quoted by different authors to support the Indo-Iranian identity of both the BMAC and the Andronovo. The passages are sufficiently general to permit the Plains Indians of North America an Indo-Iranian identity.
    • Archaeology and Language ― The case of the Bronze Age Indo-Iranians. Lamberg-Karlovsky, Carl C., pp 142-177 in ―The Indo- Aryan Controversy — Evidence and Inference in Indian history‖, ed. Edwin F. Bryant and Laurie L. Patton, Routledge, London & New York, 2005.Quoted in Talageri, S. G. (2010). The Rigveda and the Avesta. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • The archaeological material is culturally so ambiguous that it can very well be representative of almost any linguistic group... In such circumstances, it becomes clear that the only logic behind identifying these archaeological cultures as Indo-Iranian or Indo-Aryan is that they fit in with the time- space expectations of the linguists and historians as to where the Indo-Iranians/Indo- Aryans must have been at a particular period of time: "they are "in the right place at the right time" (LAMBERG-KARLOVSKY 2005:157). "In short, apart from the time-space expectations, there is nothing in the archaeological material that could be taken as tags for tracing the Indo-Iranians/Indo-Aryans" (FRANCFORT 2001:153).
    • Lamberg-Karlovsky, & Francfort, H.P, quoted in Talageri, S. G. (2010). The Rigveda and the Avesta. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • “It remains quite clear, however, that Indic and Iranian developed from different Indo-European dialects, whose period of common development was not long enough to effect total fusion.”
    • The Indo-European Dialects by Antoine Meillet (translated by Samuel N. Rosenberg), Alabama Linguistic and Philological Series No. 15, University of Alabama Press, 1967 (original book 1908, second edition 1922). Quoted in Talageri, S. (2000). The Rigveda: A historical analysis. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • “Evidence either for the history of the Iranian tribes or their languages from the period following the separation of the Indian and Iranian tribes down to the early 1st millennium BC is sadly lacking. There are no written sources, and archaeologists are still working to fill out the picture.” ...
  • “The earliest mention of Iranians in historical sources is, paradoxically, of those settled on the Iranian plateau, not those still in Central Asia, their ancestral homeland. ‘Persians’ are first mentioned in the 9th century BC Assyrian annals: on one campaign, in 835 BC, Shalmaneser (858-824) is said to have received tributes from 27 kings of Paršuwaš; the Medes are mentioned under Tiglath-Pileser III (744-727 BC)… There are no literary sources for Iranians in Central Asia before the Old Persian inscriptions (Darius’s Bisotun inscription, 521-519 BC, ed. Schmitt) and Herodotus’ Histories (ca. 470 BC). ... these show that by the mid-1st millennium BC tribes called Sakas by the Persians and Scythians by the Greeks were spread throughout Central Asia, from the westernmost edges (north and northwest of the Black Sea) to its easternmost borders...
  • “the only sources for the early (pre-Achaemenid) history of the eastern Iranian peoples are the Avesta, the Old Persian inscriptions, and Herodotus. … In view of the dearth of historical sources it is of paramount importance that one should evalute the evidence of the Avesta, the holy book of the Zoroastrians, parts at least of which antedate the Old Persian inscriptions by several centuries.” ...
  • “A very few geographical names appear to be inherited from Indo-Iranian times. For instance, OPers. Haraiva-, Av. (acc.) HarOiium, and OPers. HarauvatI, Av. HaraxvaitI-, both of which in historical times are located in the area of southern Afghanistan (Herat and Kandahar), correspond to the two Vedic rivers Sarayu and SarasvatI. These correspondences are interesting, but tell us nothing about the early geography of the Indo-Iranian tribes.”
    • Prods Oktor Skjaervo, in The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia: Language, Material Culture and Ethnicity edited by George Erdosy (Papers by Michael Witzel and P. Oktor Skjærvø), Walter de Gruyter, Berlin-New York, 1995. Quoted in Talageri, S. (2000). The Rigveda: A historical analysis. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • The expansion of the Corded Ware cultural variants throughout central, eastern and northern Europe has been construed as the most likely scenario for the origin and dispersal of PIE (Proto-Indo-European) language and culture.... [However, this archaeological phenomenon] “does not… explain the presence of Indo-Europeans in Asia, Greece and Anatolia”.... “it is still a hazardous task to connect the archaeological evidence… in the Central Asian steppe with the appearance of Iranian (Aryan) and Indic (Indo-Aryan) tribes in Iran, Afghanistan and India”.... [Indo-Iranian is archaeologically an] “Indo-European branch which all the homeland theories we have reviewed so far have failed to explain”.... “it is still a hazardous task to connect (this) archaeological evidence of Indo-Iranians in the Central Asian Steppe with the appearance of Iranian (Aryan) and Indic (Indo-Aryan) tribes in Iran, Afghanistan and India,”... [these so-called Proto-Indo-Iranians in Central Asia have] “no links with… south-eastern Europe” ...[these close links between Indic and Iranian came about due to] “a period of close contact between Indic and Iranian people (which) brought about linguistic convergence, thus making the two languages appear misleadingly similar”.
    • Shan M.M. Winn. Heaven, Heroes and Happiness: The Indo-European Roots of Western Ideology by Shan M.M. Winn, University Press of America, Lanham-New York-London, 1995. Quoted in Talageri, S. (2000). The Rigveda: A historical analysis. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • Helmut Humbach, the eminent Avestan scholar, makes the following very pertinent observations: ―It must be emphasized that the process of polarization of relations between the Ahuras and the Daēvas is already complete in the Gāthās, whereas, in the Rigveda, the reverse process of polarization between the Devas and the Asuras, which does not begin before the later parts of the Rigveda, develops as it were before our very eyes, and is not completed until the later Vedic period. Thus, it is not at all likely that the origins of the polarization are to be sought in the prehistorical, the proto-Aryan period. [...] All this suggests a synchrony between the later Vedic period and Zarathuštra‘s reform in Iran.
    • Helmut Humbach The Gathas of Zarathushtra and the Other Old Avestan Texts, Part I: Introduction, Texts and Translation. Humbach, Helmut. Carl Winter, Universitätsverlag, Heidelberg (Germany) 1991. (HUMBACH 1991:23). Quoted in Talageri, S. G. (2008). The Rigveda and the Avesta. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • “By the mid-ninth century BC two major groups of Iranians appear in cuneiform sources: the Medes and the Persians. [….] What is reasonably clear from the cuneiform sources is that the Medes and Persians (and no doubt other Iranian peoples not identified by name) were moving into western Iran from the east”.
    • (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1974, Vol.9, 832). Quoted in [1]
  • ”The first chapter of the Vendidad or the handbook of the Parsees enumerates sixteen holy lands created by Ahura Mazda which were later rendered unfit for the residence of man (i.e. the ancestors of the Iranians) on account of different things created by Angra Mainyu, the evil spirit of the Avesta… The first of these lands was of course Airyana Vaejo which was abandoned by the ancestors of the Iranians because of severe winter and snow; of the others, one was Hapta Hindu, i.e. Saptasindhu”.
    • Purushottam L. Bhargava quoted in TALAGERI 1993a:180). TALAGERI 1993a: “The Aryan Invasion Theory and Indian Nationalism”, Voice of India, New Delhi, 1993. Quoted in [2]
  • Prior to the Turkic expansion, at the beginning of the Iron Age, Iranian spread from somewhere in the vicinity of Bactria, Sogdiana, and the eastern steppe to cover most or all of western central Asia and the entire steppe, much of the Near East at least to eastern Anatolia, and, at least intermittently, the Danube plain, where Slavic vocabulary and ethnonyms attest to a major Iranianization at about the fifth century AD, and where there is good archaeological evidence of a Scythian presence in the mid-first millennium BC...
    • Johanna Nichols. NICHOLS. 1998. The Eurasian spread zone and the Indo-European dispersal. in : Blench, R., & Spriggs, M. (2012). Archaeology and Language II: Archaeological Data and Linguistic Hypotheses. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.
  • I have glanced at the Indian settlements in Egypt, which will again be noticed, and I will now resume my observations from the lofty frontier, which is the true boundary of the European and Indian races. The Parasoos, the people of Parasoo Ram, those warriors of the Axe, have penetrated into and given a name to Persia; they are the people of Bharata; and to the principal stream that pours its waters into the Persian Gulf they have given the name of Ea-Bharates (Euphrat-es), the Bharat Chief.
    • Edward Pococke ‘India in Greece, p. 45. quoted in [3], 156
  • Ujameda, by his wife, Nila, had five sons, who spread their branches on both sides of the Indus. Regarding three the Puranas are silent, which implies their migration to distant regions. Is it possible they might be the origin of the Medes? These Medes are descendants of Yciyat, third son of the patriarch, Menu: and Madai, founder of the Medes, was of Japhet’s line. Aja Merle, the patronymic of the branch of Bajaswa, is from Aja ‘a goat.’ The Assyrian Mede in Scripture is typified by the goat.‘
    • Tod’s Rajasthan, Vol. I, p. 41, quoted in [4], 158ff
  • The ancient map of Persia, Colchis,. and Armenia is absolutely full of the most distinct and startling evidences of Indian colonization, and, what is more astonishing, practically evinces, in the most powerful manner, the truth of several main points in the two great Indian poems, the Ramayana and the Mahahharata. The whole map is positively nothing less than a journal of emigration on the most gigantic scale.
    • Edward Pococke : India in Greece, I. 47. quoted in [5], 160

Indo-Iranian languages

  • The Iranian family, which was next to sweep across the steppe and deserts, finds its region of greatest diversity in the central Asian mountains, and its ancestral Indo-Iranian family finds its own greatest diversity in the mountain region from central Asia to northern India (i.e. Bactria- Sogdiana and parts just south).
    • Johanna Nichols NICHOLS 1997: The Epicentre of the Indo-European Linguistic Spread. Nichols, Johanna. Chapter 8, in ―Archaeology and Language, Vol. I: Theoretical and Methodological Orientations, ed. Roger Blench & Matthew Spriggs, Routledge, London and New York, 1997.
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